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The Oscars should heed these 5 lessons from the Golden Globes and Emmys

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Key Points
  • The Golden Globes and last year's Emmys provide the upcoming Academy Awards telecast with a blueprint of do's and don'ts. 
  • The Globes ceremony was filled with technical hiccups and overshadowed by a number of scandals currently facing its host organization.
  • The Academy Awards will take place Sunday, April 25. Nominees will be announced on March 15.

In this article

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler speak via livestream during the 78th Annual Golden Globe® Awards at The Rainbow Room on February 28, 2021 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

"Could this whole night have been an email?" co-host Tina Fey asked a small, socially distanced audience of first responders and essential workers during the opening monologue to the 78th annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday night.

"Yes," she answered a moment later.

The ceremony was filled with technical hiccups and overshadowed by a number of scandals currently facing its host organization, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Heading into the event, the HFPA was under fire for its lack of Black voters and over continued reports of internal corruption.

That cloud never really cleared during the three-hour broadcast, as award winners oscillated between thanking the HFPA for their award and lambasting it for its lack of inclusivity. Ultimately, it seemed these newly minted Golden Globe honorees were torn between the joy of winning and the notion that their win might just be a little bit hollow.

This year's Golden Globes, which was a hybrid of in-person presenters and at-home nominees due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, provides the upcoming Academy Awards telecast with a blueprint of do's and don'ts. The producers prepping for the upcoming April 25 ceremony will also be able to retrace the steps taken by the Emmy Awards last September. The Emmys were the first Hollywood award show to broadcast during the pandemic.

Here are five things the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can learn from other pandemic award shows:

Invest in technology

It became glaringly clear early in Sunday's ceremony that the 78th Golden Globes were going to be riddled with technical difficulties.

During the first acceptance speech, Daniel Kaluuya was clearly speaking via video, but viewers could not hear him. Producers briefly shut down his speech, with presenter Laura Dern apologizing and wishing Kaluuya congratulations.

Pictured in this screengrab released on February 28, (l-r) Laura Dern and Daniel Kaluuya speak onstage at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards broadcast on February 28, 2021.
NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

"You did me dirty, you doing me dirty, you doing me dirty," Kaluuya can be heard saying as Dern leaves the stage, his audio finally coming in. "Am I on? Is this on? Am I on?"

Kaluuya won the award for best supporting actor in a motion picture for his work in "Judas and the Black Messiah."

Similar technical mishaps occurred throughout the night, with Fey and co-host Amy Poehler occasionally talking over each other while hosting from opposite coasts and the production crew trying to play several winners off with loud music that the winners didn't seem to be able to hear.

Additionally, sound and lighting quality varied greatly from nominee to nominee, with some having crisp and clear images while others were grainy and shot at odd angles.

There was also the decision to end every segment before a commercial break with a series of video windows showcasing the nominees up for the next award.

Pictured in this screengrab released on February 28, (l-r) Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy nominees Don Cheadle (with Bridgid Coulter), Nicholas Hoult, Eugene Levy, Jason Sudeikis, and Ramy Youssef speak during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards broadcast on February 28, 2021.
NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

It seems that producers hoped for the nominees to chat with each other like they were on a private Zoom call. While some nominees played along, others waited patiently — and silently — for the camera to cut away.

For the Emmy Awards, producers opted to ship out 130 cameras to nominees in 20 cities and 10 countries. Nominees were sent a ring light, a laptop, a boom mic and a camera as part of the package.

This made the individual videos more uniform and ensured that each nominee had the proper equipment to appear on the broadcast. Winners gave their acceptance speeches and then were transferred over to a virtual press room to conduct quick press conferences with reporters.

While the Emmys weren't completely free of technical glitches, any that occurred were small and unmemorable. In fact, the biggest challenge the Emmys faced was when, during a bit on stage, Jimmy Kimmel and Jennifer Aniston accidentally started a fire.

Host Jimmy Kimmel (right) and presenter Jennifer Aniston (right) work to put out a fire on the set of the 72nd Emmy Awards will broadcast SUNDAY, SEPT. 20 (8:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. MDT/5:00 p.m. PDT), on ABC. (ABC via Getty Images) JENNIFER ANISTON, JIMMY KIMMEL
ABC | Walt Disney Television | Getty Images

Kimmel, as a joke, had doused the envelope with Lysol and set it on fire to poke fun at the lengths the production had gone to to ensure that everyone who participated was safe. However, Aniston was unable to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher at first, leading to a small blaze. Ultimately, she was able to temper the fire.

Kimmel and Aniston remained level-headed about the incident, improving a bit while they snuffed out the fire and continued calmly with the rest of the show.

Deliver the awards

Nobody "went home" with a Golden Globe trophy during Sunday's event, mainly because all of the nominees were at home.

While the Emmys used this to its advantage by finding unique ways to deliver the awards to winners, the Globes opted to ship out the trophies at a later date.

John Oliver wins the award for Outstanding Variety Talk Series for "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" during the 2020 Emmy Awards.
ABC | Walt Disney Television | Getty Images

Having nominees waiting to see if the black box that had been delivered to their home would erupt with confetti and burst open with a golden prize inside was a clever and entertaining way to keep nominees and viewers at home locked in on the telecast.

Social media was flooded with photos and videos of nominees watching as men and women in blow-up tuxedo hazmat suits stood outside their door with an Emmy Award only to walk away when another winner was named during the broadcast.

Eugene Levy receives his Emmy Award for lead actor in a comedy series during the September 20, 2020 ceremony.
ABC | Walt Disney Television | Getty Images

Without the trophies, the Globes felt flat, with winners reciting their speeches to the camera without the thrill of hoisting their shiny prize.

The Academy Awards is a much more serious occasion than the Emmys, so it's not likely that the production team will opt to have trophies burst out of boxes in a hail of confetti or via a costumed delivery person.

Still, the ceremony could benefit from finding a way to get trophies into the hands of its winners.

Don't overcomplicate the broadcast

In hiring Fey and Poehler to host the Golden Globes, the HFPA got seasoned awards ceremony comedians, but also a hitch — Fey lives in New York and Poehler lives in California.

As a compromise, the production decided to have Fey appear live from the Rainbow Room in New York City and Poehler from The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. The idea was that this would allow both women to host without having to endure travel during the pandemic. It also expanded the list of presenters available to the broadcast.

In truth, the Globes didn't have to be bicoastal. Instead of providing equipment to nominees, the HFPA opted to split its production, hiring two separate crews to do a job that, in the past, has been done by one.

Some of the banter between Fey and Poehler seemed organic. But the attempt to match their backgrounds so it appeared like they were standing next to each other didn't always work. The result was a number of weird timing mishaps.

"One could make allowances if it seemed like the Globes were attempting new or innovative things within the format," Daniel Fienberg wrote in his review of the event for The Hollywood Reporter. "But nothing in this show was appreciably more innovative than what the Emmys did five-plus months ago, and the Emmys nailed almost every challenge and avoided almost every disaster."

Don't waste the audience's time

In recent years, much of the criticism of awards shows has centered around the length of the telecasts. In some cases, shows have been able to keep pace, allowing winners ample time for their speeches and providing some skits or prerecorded sketches to break up the monotony.

Sunday's Globes failed in this regard. Many of the comedic bits the show tried to include fell flat, seeming to drag on for much longer than they should.

"Oh, you are taking so much time with this," Poehler seems to half-joke during a nearly four-minute skit between Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson, who play Beverly Jackfruit and Francois Jean-Rudy, winners of a fake award for Least Original Song.

Pictured: (l-r) Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kenan Thompson speak onstage at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton and broadcast on February 28, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California.
Christopher Polk/NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Yet, award winners were consistently pressed for time while delivering their speeches, with the production playing increasingly loud music to force them to wrap up. Only it seemed that the winners couldn't hear this musical cue.

Embrace diversity

For years, Hollywood has been plagued by concerns about its diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Golden Globes is just the latest award show to be criticized for its lack of nonwhite nominees.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has worked to introduce major changes to its voting and recruitment rules but still struggles to cultivate a more diverse set of nominees.

In 2016, the organization set a goal of doubling the number of diverse members by 2020 following outrage over a lack of Oscar nominees who were female or people of color. The Academy has made strides. It has added a historic number of new members that represent minorities.

Still, last year, only two of the 20 actors and actresses nominated were people of color and no female directors were nominated. Of the nine films nominated for best picture, only the South Korean movie "Parasite" featured a predominantly nonwhite cast and only one, "Little Women," was centered around numerous female characters.

Pictured in this screengrab released on February 28, John Boyega accepts the Best Supporting Actor - Television award for ‘Small Axe’ during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards broadcast on February 28, 2021.
NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

The 2021 Oscar nominations are due out on March 15, so we will have to wait two weeks to see if the nominees are more inclusive this year.

If the Academy takes any cues from the Golden Globes, the importance of diversity should certainly be one of them.

The HFPA was pummeled with criticism ahead of Sunday's ceremony and throughout the broadcast from its hosts, presenters and honorees.

Jane Fonda, who accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award during the Golden Globes ceremony, used her speech to explain how stories can change people's perceptions of different cultures and that Hollywood has been afraid of its own story for too long.

"There's a story we have been afraid to see and hear about ourselves and this industry," she said. "The story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out. A story of who is offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the room where decisions are made. Let's all of us, including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let's all of us make an effort to expand that tent."

Despite nominations for Black actors and filmmakers being sparse, winners were not in short supply. Kaluuya, John Boyega, Andra Day and the late Chadwick Boseman were all honored for their work during Sunday's ceremony.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. The 2021 Golden Globes aired on NBC.